Tag Archives: science-fiction

My Odyssey Workshop Experience: The Critiques

For Odyssey, each student had to turn in six stories. Four of them are for in-class and two are for private critiques with a guest.

The in-class critiques are done in a typical manner: round-robin, each person given a limited time to speak their thoughts on the piece, starting with positives, the author remaining silent until the very end.

One of the mantras for any critique circle or workshop is that what is said during critique remains in the critique. We didn’t discuss stories outside of the critique time except to ask what an author might be planning to do with it or something else similarly innocuous. And I’m certainly not going to discuss what was talked about here.

That being said, I do want to put down a few memories of these six weeks.

For our first two in-class critiques, we received little gifts to open afterward. This was my first, that I forgot to open after my critique XD

Because we were doing things virtually, we had deadlines early morning (at least for me, some people were outside of the time zone) before lecture started to mimic the turning in of our stories in class. We had to save and upload our final draft on a board so that all other students could download the stories. These deadlines happened approximately six times during the six weeks (a few people had to send their first sub before the workshop began) so the deadlines were staggered so only 2-3 people had to do a turn-in each day.

We also had a similar deadline each morning for our due critiques. These would be the stories with our documented notes and thoughts. We would upload our critiques as a response to the author’s story, many of us saying something positive in the comment section. Continue reading

My Odyssey Workshop Experience: The Introduction

For those unfamiliar with how the Odyssey Workshop works, it is a six week long course that includes lectures and full-class critiques. There are added Q&A sessions with visiting authors and editors (though “visiting” is only loosely used this year given everything was virtual), a Slam event, and many small side meetings and check-ins.

WHAT IS TO COME!

I’m going to admit, I have always been terrified of anything that draws people’s eyes toward me. The more people there are, the more terrified I get. The more time I have to think about it beforehand, the more anxious I am. There doesn’t need to be a stage. There doesn’t need to be a microphone. There just needs to be people, the anxiety going up in an exponential way according to the total.

So there were a number of situations about the workshop I knew I was going to be muscling through by sheer force of will. First up: the dreaded icebreaker meet.

None one likes these, least of all anyone with even a modicum of social anxiety, and being on a virtual setting does not change things. [I did have bare feet (as I did for 99% of the workshop) to give me a small level of comfort.] I got to meet my fellow Odyssians for the first time via their heads, torsos and backgrounds. We did a typical icebreaker game that divided us into breakout rooms a few of us at a time, and that had the typical stilted conversations that come with having no idea who you’re talking to. Continue reading

May 2020 Recommended Books

Where last time I recommended all fantasy books, this month I decided to go in the complete opposite direction and talk up some science-fiction books I’ve read recently.


NINEFOX GAMBIT

by Yoon Ha Lee
(Science-Fiction)

The biggest compliment I can say about Ninefox Gambit is, I wish I’d picked it up sooner. Far sooner. Back when it’d first come out sooner. On the other hand, then I wouldn’t be able to immediately have access to its sequels, so there’s a huge positive about waiting until the trilogy is complete.

This story takes science-fiction world-building and turns it inside out and upside down, in a unique way, yet using older, easily grasped ideas. For instance, it’s a combination of military fiction with religious zealotry, using the fantastical element of never-ending life with political drama, all within a blow-by-blow space-siege operation. Continue reading

Historical Nebula Nomination Read Series [1965] Check-In #1

My first Check-In post in this auspicious quest. I’m going to admit, I thought this would be a breeze given word count in books in the 1960s were far and away less than the current average word count. What I didn’t take into account was the -isms. Sexism, racism, etc. And some of that can be…difficult.

Now, I’m going to do my best to consider the time period in an effort to be a little more fair since it’s truly impossible to judge certain things by today’s standards when thinking of yesterday, especially when I obviously wasn’t around fifty-sixty years ago to have personally experienced the world then. So certain instances, like calling all women “girls” or the invisibility of certain races, I will strive to overlook.

However, I’m human and my beliefs will very likely get in the way sometimes.

So far, I’ve read four of the 1965 Nebula Nominations:


The first book I read was Rogue Dragon by Avram Davidson, a small, chapbook-sized science fiction novel about an Earth that had been turned into a hunting ground for unintelligent creatures titled dragons. In reality, the descriptions and writing of these dragons resembled large theropods. (And, in fact, there’s a scene that heavily reminds me of Jurassic Park, though of course that book wasn’t published until the 90s.)

The lead character goes on a discovery adventure where he lands within one group of characters after another, becoming acquainted with different sides of the entire story there on future Earth. His journey is a haphazard series of events though, with much of his autonomy stolen from him often enough that it’s comical to discover just how he would stumble into the next phase of the story. He is not a typical hero for the bulk of the story; he’s more of an information gatherer. Continue reading

Into 2020

I never made proper goals last year, so I don’t have a clear comparison. No way of showing whether I had a good year, a bad year, or some amalgamation of the two. I’m going to crop it all up to being good though, for I’ve had a lot of new beginnings, focused on what I (and we, meaning Steve and I) want out of life.

WRITING FRONT

I had three hesitant ideas back in February.

Firstly, to start submitting my short stories again. On this, because I had been focused on novels for the past few years, I had to first dive through all my old work, dividing everything into piles set for the trunk, for further consideration, or good and just needs a quick cleanup before being sent out. In conjunction with this, I began to do writing exercises with the intention of hopefully getting some flash first drafts that could be eventually included in my submission process while I was sifting through everything else. I didn’t keep up with my exercises as much as I would have preferred, but still completed between 60-80, with at least 10 of them being worthy of edits and submission.

Secondly, I wanted to read more. More specifically, fantasy and science-fiction in the novel and short story departments. I wanted to read more new books, more old books, wanted to become familiarized with newer series as well as test out lesser known authors to find more I enjoy reading. One of the other positives in this respect was to improve my own vocabulary and writing capability, which I think grows with everything experienced. As of yesterday, I’ve read a total of 89 books for the year, not counting those I gave up on, and read a little over 100 short stories, which is not nearly as many as I’d hoped. I’ve also read more nonfiction articles as well, but I unfortunately kept no count on those and honestly, will likely not keep count next year either. All in all, I’m happy. The books went beyond fantasy & science fiction, ranging from nonfiction, to classics, to graphic novels, to even my first foray into YA in an attempt to find good ones since I’m trying to create a shelf full of age-appropriate fun books the kids can grab as they shift from middle grade.

Thirdly, I wanted to begin putting myself out there socially. This was the scariest of all. I talk a little more about this in the personal section, but the shortened idea is that I’ve been conquering my shyness one conversation at a time in the past decade. I will never not be scared, and I accept that, but I subscribe to the belief that practice makes permanent. So I made a reddit account and began commenting. Tried to post once a month on Facebook. Drove up to Balticon and listened to panels because I haven’t quite gathered the courage to make the leap of asking to actually be on any panels myself. Was going to attend Capclave, but a wedding Steve was officiating took precedence, so it’s on my goal sheet for next year.

Quantifiable Writing Achievements:

2 sales and publications: Cessation of Civilization to DreamForge Magazine and I Thought Them Starlight to Flame Tree, both short pieces I like very much.

80,000 words written (this is the bottom level amount that I kept better count of and doesn’t include a lot of writing exercises). Not even 1k a weekday, so I can definitely do better here.

55 submissions.

I’m going to skip counting social media posts because I did not do well. My attempts there were sporadic and scattered.

WRING GOALS 2020

For next year, I hope to complete:

1) 250,000 words spread between short stories, writing exercises and novels.

2) Maintain a rolling 7 submissions out at any given time.

3) Attend at least 2 conventions (I toyed with the idea of requesting to be on panels, but I’m allowing myself to not fulfill that eventual goal.)

4) Not disappear off social media.

Capable goals. Not too arduous or terrifying I don’t think, but perfectly good at keeping me going in the right direction. Wish me luck :)

PERSONAL FRONT

As a family, one of our biggest goals a few years ago was to begin traveling more, focusing on experiences with the kids. In November ’18 we bought an pull-behind RV so that this year we would be able to take home with us, so to speak, and make it a little more affordable. We took three trips total. First, to Williamsburg for a few days over the kids’ spring break where we did tours, saw and talked to most of the shops, and attended the trial of Israel Hands one evening. Then to the Outer Banks during the summer, which is where my family vacations once a year. We hadn’t been in three years and the kids ended up falling in love with the freedom of biking around the KOA. Lastly, we went and stayed outside of Philidelphia for a few days in September. Did downtown Philly, Liberty Bell, etc., one day, Longwood Gardens, including the light display at the fountain one night, and then visited one of my aunts further afield and took a hike up Hawk Mountain.

Socially, I’ve also been working on reaching out to try and maintain or cultivate friendships. Along with a sister-in-law, I started a tiny book club that meets every two months. We do trivia games for fun and I get to chat about books in a few different genres. Steve and I put in a patio (I think I mentioned this in another post because, wow, was that a lot of work and I didn’t even do half of it) and began inviting people over for a few cookouts before the nice weather disappeared. I’ve been working on saying “yes” more often as well. Said yes to a number of events I would normally shy away from: school events, work events, even library events I never would have gone to without making this resolution and coming leaps and bounds over the past few years. Even sucked up my fear enough to host a party for my son and his friends over Halloween. People are still scary, but I’ve learned a smile goes a long way.

Speaking of smiles, I have to mention health for a moment. I’m so thankful for finally discovering what’s been wrong with my face for the past year and a half. With my cracked tooth gone, the nerves in the right side of my face have healed and no longer throb and I’ve found a whole lot more energy that I didn’t even realize I’d been missing.

PERSONAL GOALS 2020

For our New Year’s Resolutions, the girl decided hers would be “to smile all year” and I liked it enough that I think I’m stealing it. So we’ve got:

1) Brave the cold and don’t limit my exercise to the warm weather. I can wear plenty of layers if need be, because this goal is more about not letting the winter derail good habits.

2) Keep saying yes, even when all I want to do is say no.

3) Remember to smile.

There you have it! Hope your 2020 is glorious and successful however you define success :)